Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as a salaried employee in Colorado?

February 1st 2024

Knowing and understanding your rights as a salaried employee holds significant importance. This knowledge not only empowers you in the workplace but also serves as a shield to protect you within the workplace.

As you commit yourself to your daily professional responsibilities, the wages provided by your employer shape your employment experience. Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge that the specifics of these arrangements can exhibit notable variations from one U.S. state to another.

The objective of this article is to offer clarity regarding your employment rights as a salaried employee in Colorado, guiding you towards a more enlightened and empowered professional journey.

This Article Covers

Defining a Salaried Employee in Colorado
Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Colorado
Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Colorado
Wage and Hour Regulations in Colorado
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Colorado
Taking Action Against Violations in Colorado
Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Colorado

Defining a Salaried Employee in Colorado

What is Salaried Employment in Colorado?

In Colorado, a salaried worker is an employee who regularly receives a predetermined, unchanging amount of compensation from their employer. Employers in Colorado must provide payment to their salaried employees on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, regardless of the number of hours worked in a given week.

Salaried employment in Colorado can be divided based on eligibility for overtime. The initial category includes salaried employees with exempt status, such as professionals, executives, and administrative personnel. These individuals do not qualify for overtime pay and receive the same compensation, regardless of the hours worked each week, even if it exceeds the standard 40-hour workweek. Conversely, non-exempt employees in Colorado are entitled to receive overtime pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a single work week.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in Colorado?

Aspect Salaried Employees Hourly Employees
Minimum Wage Laws Employees are paid a fixed amount regardless of hours worked. Subject to the minimum wage in Colorado of $14.42/hour. 
Overtime Laws Overtime eligibility varies. Workers are classified as exempt under FLSA for certain positions. Eligible for overtime for work hours exceeding 40 hours in a work week. Entitled to 1.5 times the regular wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week
Paid Sick Leave & FMLA Salaried pay may include sick leave; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid sick leave and use it with unpaid FMLA leave.
Paid Vacation Salaried pay may include vacation; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid vacation based on hours worked and employer policies.
Maternity/Paternity Leave May have unpaid provisions. The duration and specifics of leave vary by agreement with the employer. No guaranteed paid leave. Leave terms depend on employer’s policies.
Job Security  More job security. Less job security and stability. 

Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Colorado

What are the Basic Rights of Salaried Employees in Colorado?

  • Meal breaks and rest: Salaried employees in Colorado have the right to designated break times during their workday, ensuring they have an opportunity to rest and recharge under state labor laws.
  • Minimum wage: Salaried employees categorized as non-exempt in Colorado have the entitlement to receive the state’s minimum wage i.e.$14.42.
  • Protection with federal regulations: Colorado’s salaried workforces are protected with federal regulations, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
  • Overtime compensation: Non-exempt salaried employees have the opportunity to receive overtime compensation at a rate of 1.5 times their standard hourly wage for any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a single workweek.
  • Right to unpaid leave: Eligible Colorado employees have the option to take unpaid leave for specific medical and family-related reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Protection against workplace discrimination: Workers in Colorado are shielded from workplace discrimination based on various factors, including disability, national origin, ancestry, race, color, religion, gender, and military veteran status.
  • Workplace safety: Salaried employees are entitled to a safe workplace that complies with safety standards as outlined in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), ensuring their well-being and access to necessary safety training.
  • Protection for employees with disabilities: Employers in Colorado are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to salaried employees with disabilities, allowing them to perform their job responsibilities effectively and without prejudice, under both state and federal disability laws.

Is Overtime Pay Applicable to Salaried Employees in Colorado?

Yes. Certain salaried employees can still be eligible for overtime pay. In Colorado, when a non-exempt employee exceeds 40 hours in a workweek or 12 hours in a workday, they are entitled to receive compensation at a rate 1.5 times higher than their standard pay rate. The work week is defined as a consistent, repeating period of 168 hours, commencing at the same precise time each week, and should be established by the employer.

To determine the standard pay rate, employers must take into account various forms of compensation such as minimum wage tip credits, production bonuses, hourly wages, non-discretionary bonuses, commissions, and shift differentials. For a comprehensive understanding of this topic, you can access our guide on Colorado overtime laws.

Can Employers Deduct Wages from Salaried Employees in Colorado?

Wage deduction laws at the state level vary, but in Colorado, following wage deduction requirements necessitates obtaining written consent from the employee beforehand. Without this consent, deductions that are not mandated by law are considered illegal.

Are Salaried Employees Eligible for Breaks and Leaves in Colorado?

In Colorado, when employees work continuously for over 5 hours, they have the right to a minimum 30-minute meal break. During this interval, employees should not be expected to engage in any work-related tasks, and they will not receive compensation for this break period. Nevertheless, if circumstances demand that the employee must eat while on the job, this time should be fully remunerated.

Can Salaried Employees Request Flexible Work Arrangements in Colorado?

Yes, they can. The State of Colorado is dedicated to embracing the challenge of enhancing flexible work initiatives that cater to the work-life and family needs of our employees, all while ensuring that workplaces maintain high levels of productivity and efficiency. These flexible work arrangements are designed to accommodate the diverse workforce by offering options for how, when, and where work is performed.

Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Colorado

What is the Definition and Implications of Exempt Status in Colorado?

In Colorado, an exempt employee is someone who is not eligible for overtime compensation when they work more than 40 hours in a week. This category applies to individuals who earn a minimum of $1,057.69 per week, which equates to an annual income of $55,000, and hold specific job roles, such as executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, or outside sales positions, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Exempt employees are not entitled to receive overtime pay, even if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Employers need to have a comprehensive understanding of both the FLSA and Colorado labor laws to ensure compliance. Incorrectly classifying employees can result in costly wage disputes and legal consequences.

The implications and advantages of being classified as an exempt employee in Colorado include the following:

  • Salary Cap: While there is a guaranteed minimum salary, the potential for substantial income growth over time may be limited, in contrast to positions with variable compensation structures like hourly wages or commissions.
  • Elevated Stress and Responsibility: With autonomy and authority come increased responsibilities, potentially leading to higher stress levels and workplace pressure.
  • Benefits and Perquisites: Exempt employees typically have access to a wider range of benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off, enhancing their overall compensation and well-being.
  • Job Security and Legal Protections: Exempt status generally provides stronger legal protections, ensuring job security and offering safeguards in cases of workplace disputes, discrimination, or wrongful termination.
  • Professional Growth: Employers often invest in the professional development of exempt employees through training and educational opportunities, enabling them to enhance their skills and advance in their careers.
  • Minimum Salary Guarantee: Exempt employees in Colorado are typically guaranteed a minimum salary following FLSA standards, providing financial security and ensuring a baseline income level.

What are the Differences Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Salaried Employees in Colorado?

Aspect Exempt Employees Non-exempt Employees
Overtime Generally not eligible for overtime pay. Eligible for overtime pay for working over 40 hours per week. Entitled rate of one-and-a-half times the standard hourly wage.
Pay Structure Paid on a salary basis. Paid hourly.
Monitoring Hours Not expected to track hours worked. Expected to track and report hours worked
Employee Type Employees who hold white-collar positions such as those in managerial or professional roles. Job roles vary but may include blue-collar workers, skilled tradesmen, clerical staff, or retail employees.
Compensation Exempt employees typically earn more due to their positions and skills. These workers receive an hourly rate with flexibility in scheduling.
Stability Stable paycheck and benefit eligibility. Varied hours, potentially unstable.
Paid Time Off May qualify for paid vacation or sick time. Typically, they are not eligible for paid time off.
Benefits and Perks Depending on their employment agreement, workers might enjoy extra perks like paid time off, bonuses, or other incentives. Eligible for accrued sick leave.

How to Determine if You're Exempt or Non-Exempt in Colorado?

To determine whether you fall under the exempt or non-exempt category in Colorado, you can utilize three essential criteria to ascertain your exemption status, as outlined by the Fair Labor Standards Act:

  • Salary Level Assessment: If your annual salary surpasses $55,000 (equivalent to $1,057.69 per week), you may be eligible for exempt classification.
  • Salary Basis Evaluation: If you receive a guaranteed minimum compensation regardless of the actual hours worked, you could potentially meet the requirements for exempt status.
  • Duties Analysis: In addition to satisfying the prerequisites of the first two tests, you must also perform job responsibilities falling within exempt categories. These duties encompass executive responsibilities, professional duties, and administrative duties.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Colorado

What are the Minimum Wage Requirements for Salaried Employees in Colorado?

Commencing from January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Colorado for nonexempt workers stands at $14.42 per hour. It’s important to note that this minimum wage experiences annual adjustments, factoring in the Consumer Price Index to cater to the needs of Colorado residents.

For employees who receive tips, this reduced rate is established at $11.40 per hour. Employers maintain the authority to implement tip-sharing arrangements among their staff as well.

How is Overtime Compensated for Salaried Employees in Colorado?

The term “workweek” is defined as a consistent, repeating period of 168 hours, which starts at the same specific time each week, as determined by the employer. As per the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (COMPS), when an employee exceeds 40 hours in a single work week or 12 hours in a single workday, including consecutive hours, they are entitled to receive compensation at a rate of 1.5 times their standard hourly wage.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Colorado

What are the Permissible Deductions from Salaried Employee Pay in Colorado?

Permissible deductions from employee wages in Colorado include deduction that are required by law, such as taxes and garnishments, deductions agreed upon in writing, such as loans or equipment costs, deductions to cover theft-related shortages under certain criteria, authorized deductions that can be revoked, such as insurance or savings plans, and deductions for union dues, as well failure to pay or return money or property owed to the employer.

What are the Provided Employee Benefits and Protections Under Colorado State Law?

Colorado laws offer various protections and benefits which include the following:

  • Colorado regulations prohibit employers from engaging in discrimination and retaliation against employees in various protected categories. Moreover, employers are required to ensure pay equity and protect individuals who report misconduct.
  • Colorado laws guarantee equal pay for similar job roles and shield employees from retaliation when they report discrimination or violations of labor laws.
  • Workers in Colorado have the right to various types of leave, including domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, witness leave, and military leave.
  • Both federal and Colorado state laws stipulate that employers must provide new mothers who are breastfeeding with a reasonable amount of break time to do so.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that employers pay at least the minimum wage for all hours worked and provide overtime compensation at one and a half times the regular rate for additional hours.

If you’d like to know more about Colorado Labor Laws,  you can access our guides on Colorado salaried employees laws, and your rights as an hourly employee in Colorado.

Taking Action Against Violations in Colorado

How to Report Violations to Authorities or Labor Departments in Colorado?

Cases involving violations of labor or employment regulations often include a range of issues, such as wage and working hour discrepancies, unsafe working conditions, and unfair treatment. In Colorado, it is generally necessary to report labor or employment law violations to the local office of a federal agency.

If you suspect a breach of wage laws, you have the option to submit a complaint to the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Employees can utilize an online complaint form provided by OSHA to report any unsafe or unhealthy working conditions within their workplace.

Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Colorado

Violation of Overtime Regulations: Colorado Company Pays $77,238 in Back Wages for Violating Overtime Regulations

Following an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Burnco Colorado LLC, operating under the trade name Bestway Concrete and Aggregates, has taken corrective action by paying $77,238 in back wages to 406 employees. In the WHD VS. Burnco Colorado LLC case, the resolution comes in response to the company’s violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime regulations at their facilities in Milliken, Colorado, and Irvin, Texas.

The investigation found that Burnco Colorado LLC had breached FLSA’s overtime provisions by neglecting to include bonuses earned by their employees in the computation of overtime rates. This omission resulted in the company paying overtime compensation at rates that fell below the legal requirements.

Chad Frasier, District Director of the Wage and Hour Division in Denver, emphasized the significance of the Department of Labor’s role in educating and enforcing compliance with labor laws. He highlighted the availability of numerous resources, both online and in-person, to assist employers in understanding and adhering to federal labor regulations, ultimately promoting fair competition and ensuring employees receive their rightful earnings.

Lessons learned from the case

  • Inclusion of All Earnings: Employers must accurately include all forms of compensation, such as bonuses, when calculating overtime rates for their employees to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Failing to do so can lead to violations and financial penalties.
  • Government Resources: The U.S. Department of Labor offers a range of resources to assist employers in understanding and adhering to federal labor laws. Employers should proactively utilize these resources to avoid violations and ensure fair treatment of employees.
  • Fair Competition: Compliance with labor laws not only safeguards workers’ rights but also promotes fair competition among businesses. Employers who adhere to regulations create a level playing field in the marketplace.

Violation of Wage Laws: Colorado Company Pays $242,579 in Unpaid Wages.

In a DOL vs East Moon Asian Bistro case, federal authorities have successfully recovered $242,579 in unpaid wages for 72 employees at a Westminster-based restaurant, East Moon Asian Bistro, operated by Lychen Inc. This outcome follows an investigation that revealed multiple violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Investigators determined that the restaurant failed to pay its workers the legally mandated minimum wage, withheld employees’ tips unlawfully, and denied overtime pay to those who worked more than 40 hours per week. Furthermore, the establishment failed to maintain accurate records of employees’ working hours, as required by law. It was also found that the restaurant mishandled employee tips, depriving them from their intended distribution to non-tipped and non-managerial staff. 

Lessons learned from this case

  • Adherence to labor laws is paramount: Employers must comply with minimum wage, overtime, and tip-sharing regulations stipulated by labor laws to protect the rights and well-being of their employees.
  • Record-keeping is essential: Maintaining accurate records of employees’ working hours is not just a legal requirement but also crucial for transparency and accountability within the workplace.
  • Workers’ rights must be protected: This case underscores the importance of workers standing up for their rights and reporting violations to relevant authorities, such as the Wage and Hour Division, which can assist in multiple languages while ensuring confidentiality.

Final Thoughts

Possessing a grasp of your legal entitlements and safeguards is imperative. This knowledge not only enables you to shield yourself against potential violations but also empowers you to advocate for your well-being.

Keeping up-to-date with changes in labor laws is essential for ensuring a positive workplace experience. Given the complex nature of employment regulations, seeking professional advice by consulting an employment attorney, contacting The U.S. Department of Labor, or consulting the Office of the Labor Commissioner can offer invaluable information and direction.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.